Columbus signs Huselius to a four-year deal Staff

7/2/2008 10:39:24 PM

The Columbus Blue Jackets continued to turn over their roster on Wednesday, signing unrestricted free agent forward Kristian Huselius.  Sources tell TSN it's a four-year deal worth $4.75 million per year.

The move came just hours after the Blue Jackets shipped enigmatic forward Nikolai Zherdev to the New York Rangers in a four player swap.

Huselius, 29, is coming off a productive couple of season in Calgary in which he scored 59 goals in 162 games with the Flames. He was also a +31 over the last two seasons, displaying a commitment to the defensive zone.

"Kristian is a highly skilled player with good vision and hockey sense who has performed at a very high level throughout his career," said blue jackets general manager Scott Howson. "We are very pleased to have a player and a person of his caliber join the Blue Jackets organization."

Huselius was a second round pick by the Florida Panthers back in 1997. In 473 NHL games, he has scored 132 goals and 177 assists for 309 points.

The Columbus media tried to get Howson to say something about the reasons behind trading Zherdev, but he took the high road.

"Nik had a great year last year and really made improvements on and off the ice," Howson said, "He's going to play with some great people in New York and I expect Nik to have a terrific year there.

"We wish Nik the best.  He had a bit of a tumultuous time here in Columbus, but he certainly finished on a strong note and is heading in the right direction as an NHL player."

Howson, who took over the team just over a year ago, also seems to have the Blue Jackets heading in the right direction. In the last few weeks, Howson made some moves that could radically change the culture of the team. 

He selected a skilled European in the first round of the draft, Nikita Filatov, who is considered to be a real gamer and could make an impact in the fall. Howson traded his other first round pick to Philadelphia as part of a package that brought up-and-coming forward R.J. Umberger to the Blue Jackets.

He followed up by dealing away Zherdev and Gilbert Brule, two former first round picks, plus Dan Fritsche - a local player who was a former second round pick.  They were sent packing in exchange for solid veterans: forward Raffi Torres from Edmonton and defencemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman from the Rangers.

In addition to the trades, Howson has been active on the free agent market. Howson made a pitch to keep defeneman Ron Hainsey, but he took a bigger offer from Atlanta.  Howson responded by signing veteran blueliner Mike Commodore to a 5-year deal worth $18.75 million.

"We're really excited about what we've done on the back-end," Howson said. "Championship teams are built with strong defences first."

Howson addmitted that the offence needed work, but said he hoped to change that quickly.

"We've subtracted some offence from our lineup," Howson said. "We're going to find that offence and more somewhere else." 

He landed Huselius just a few hours after saying that.

Howson said he still wants to add one more forward before the free agency period ends.